A large percentage of Americans have red polyethylene gas cans in their garages. They are used to refuel chainsaws or lawnmowers or other equipment. Injuries resulting from exploding plastic gas cans (video) are surprisingly common. These injuries may include burnt skin, coma, and limb damage. The treatments required are extensive.
Tragically, about 40% of burn victims hurt due to gas cans are children. Fumes outside the gas can ignite as you pour or fill gas resulting in a flashback fire. Currently, gas cans have safety warnings that tell users to keep them away from flames and electric motors. But these warnings can be inadequate. Moreover, flame arrestors could make them safer.
Some manufacturers do install flame arrestors, but the law doesn’t mandate their installation yet. They are small mesh screens that can keep gas cans from exploding. They are installed in the spout of the cans. Shockingly, it only costs 5 cents to include an arrestor in the design of the can and yet some manufacturers will not pay even that much to keep their consumers safe.
How does an arrestor work? It keeps flames or other heat sources from entering the can. Instead the mesh dissipates the heat and blocks the flame.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has been looking into whether these gas cans should have additional safety requirements, such as adding a flame arrestor. Several lawsuits were filed against Blitz USA, the manufacturer of a can that blew up, claiming the lack of a flame arrestor made the can dangerous. It is alleged that the can was designed such that if you pour it and pull back up, the heat source is sucked back into the can, causing it to explode. Blitz USA denied the claims that their gas cans are dangerous, but it eventually went out of business. Wal-Mart, which sold the Blitz gas cans, has also been sued. In 2013, it paid $25 million to settle various exploding gas can lawsuits.
The man who filed one of the lawsuits, Chad Funchess, had used gas cans for forty years without incident. One day he was cutting a tree outside his gas station. The gas can he used exploded and it wasn’t clear why, although he speculated it was the heat of the muffler or some kind of exhaust. As a result of the explosion, he was burned on 46% of his upper body. The rest of his body had to be used in order to get skin grafts to cover the burnt skin. He was in a coma for four months and only his right hand could be saved. He cannot move it, though metal pins have been put in to offer him some use.
Although gas cans have warnings, cases like Funchess’ suggest they may not be adequate. When a product doesn’t perform as is warranted or promised by a manufacturer and causes injuries or deaths in Maine, the injured person can bring a claim for breach of warranty, negligent design, manufacture and failure to warn. A consumer may also be able to bring a claim for strict liability, but in those cases, a consumer must prove that even when used correctly, the product caused an injury.
If you have been hurt because of an exploding gas can, your injuries are likely very serious. You are probably going to need expensive medical treatments and time off work. You may even need to find a new line of work. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you recover the compensation you deserve. At Briggs & Wholey, our knowledgeable attorneys are available to answer any questions you may have. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced advocate, please contact Briggs & Wholey, LLC at (888) 596-1099 or through our website today.
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